WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cheered on by loyalists, President Donald Trump did not hold back as he celebrated the end of his impeachment saga on Thursday with a mix of expletives and insults for his opponents and praise for the supporters who stuck with him.
Acquitted by the Republican-led Senate on Wednesday, Trump made a red-carpet arrival in the White House East Room for a victory lap as “Hail to the Chief” played over loudspeakers.
He looked out at a cheering crowd of boosters, Cabinet members, his legal defense team, Republican lawmakers, friendly media personalities, his wife Melania, and daughter Ivanka.
Trump summed up what he had been through over three years of investigations starting with whether he colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
“It was all bullshit,” said Trump. “This should never happen to another president ever.”
There was no sense of remorse or indications of lessons learned from Trump for his having applied pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, the reason why Democrats in Congress sought to oust him from power.
Trump did offer an apology at the end - a rarity for him - to his family for having experienced what he characterized as this “phony, rotten deal” perpetrated against him by his Democratic critics.
Indeed, Trump said it was possible Democrats could try to impeach him again - for something as simple as crossing a street against a red light.
“We went through hell, unfairly, did nothing wrong - did nothing wrong. I’ve done things wrong in my life, I will admit, not purposely, but I’ve done things wrong,” he said.
The president said U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi was a “horrible person” for forcing the impeachment drama on him and called the lone Senate Republican defector, 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a “failed presidential candidate.”
Directing his remarks to Romney’s Utah colleague in the Senate, Republican Mike Lee, Trump told Lee to send a message to the people of Utah: “Tell ‘em I’m sorry about Mitt Romney.”
Speaking without a teleprompter, Trump read from notes and, predictably, drifted far afield.
He expressed admiration for Representative Jim Jordan’s physique from his wrestling days in college but noted his ears have a unique shape. Jordan, who famously went without a suit jacket while defending Trump during proceedings, wore a jacket to the White House.
Trump also marveled at how close to death Representative Steve Scalise came from a gunshot wound and how the congressman’s wife had been devastated.
“A lot of wives wouldn’t give a damn,” Trump said as Scalise beamed and the room erupted in laughter.
There were shout-outs for Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. And Trump mused about doing a remake of the 1960s TV legal drama, “Perry Mason,” starring his attorney general, William Barr.
(This story corrects day of week in first paragraph to Thursday instead of Tuesday; note language in fifth paragraph)
Reporting By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Alexandra Alper